"My mother came out on the porch with a shotgun and said, 'Nah, nah! These are the Thomas boys and they're the only gang around here!'" Laughed Isaiah Thomas with a his unmistakable cackle. He was reliving his youth and chatting on the stoop of his Southside-Chicago, childhood home.
It was 1984 and the then Detroit Piston All-Star and now National Basketball Association Hall-of-Famer was engaged in a revealing interview about his unlikely rise to success. The interviewer was my former ABC-TV colleague, Dayna Eubanks Simpson, who coaxed Thomas to unpack the truth about his life in an urban war zone, where drug gangs stole innocence and youth and ruled the streets with merciless violence and retribution. Thomas had an older brother who got caught up in that mess, despite his mother's profound courage and powerful parenting. Mrs. Mary Thomas raised nine children. Long before her death in 2010, she had required her son, the basketball millionaire, to sign a homemade contract with her that he'd finish college when he entered the NBA draft after only one year at Indiana University and an NCAA men's basketball championship. In 1989, Disney produced "A Mother's Courage" starring Alfre Woodard portraying Isaiah's larger-than-life mother.
Still today, mothers like the late Mrs. Thomas struggle and endure the searing impact of poverty and the stress of inner city culture, too often to bury children murdered by senseless gunfire. Others mourn the squandered potential of those they love who used guns and drugs to make their marks, only to buy time behind bars while rotting the promise of their youth.
In Chicago, the Precious Blood Ministries of Reconciliation (PBMR) operates a spiritual field hospital to provide an oasis of peace in a place that offers little hope. See https://pbmr.org.
One of its many remarkable services is a Peace Garden and circles of forgiveness. Led by a spiritual grandmother of Chicago's Back of the Yards neighborhood, Sister Donna Liette gently convinces women mourning their children to work through loss and forgiveness. Mothers who buried sons support those whose kids killed their neighbors. Through the love of the group, these women find a way to overcome the grief, lift up their crosses and do greater things than they imagined.
Jesus said, "Wherever two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in their midst of them." (Matthew 18:20) The beloved disciple John reminds us that "... God is love." (1 John 4:8). Love conquers all.
As we prepare to celebrate Mother's Day next weekend, it's a great time to pause and honor the courage of those women who not only choose to give life, but choose to rise above the world and snatch peace from the jaws of hatred and violence.
To watch Sr. Donna in action and meet some of her brave friends, click the link below. It will likely be the best eight minutes you'll spend today. Wishing all the moms, a blessed and happy Mother's Day next weekend.